Can psychedelic medicine address some of the unique challenges faced by women?

Before their famous expeditions to Mexico, did you know that Valentina Wasson was responsible for introducing her husband R. Gordon Wasson to psychedelic mushrooms?

Valentina and her husband were the first Westerners to witness and participate in a velada led by Maria Sabina. Despite working alongside her husband until her death, her contributions remain largely unacknowledged.

Throughout psychedelic history, the work of Valentina and other women like Gertrude Paltin and Mary Barnard failed to receive the same levels of attention as their male counterparts.

Today, women continue to make significant contributions to making psychedelic medicines accessible for everyone who needs them. Entrepreneurs have set up companies dedicated to exploring the use of psychedelics in treating specific issues faced by women.

Psychedelic medicines – in clinical trials – are treating disorders like depression, PTSD and addiction. Could these effects extend to PMS, menopause, and Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) challenges?

Let’s look at the science and the people trying to answer this question.

Developing Female-Focused Psychedelic Medicines

Women alone experience symptoms of PMS and menopause, which over a lifetime can lead to changes in menstruation, disruption in sleep, physical discomfort, and mood.

There are few medicines on the market specifically designed to target these symptoms.

While the exact science is more complex, such symptoms are related to fluctuating hormone oestrogen levels. As oestrogen levels go up and down, the serotonin system is negatively affected – enter psychedelics.

Eastra Health, a female-focused biotech company, believes that the effect psychedelics have on the serotonergic system could be used to develop medicines precisely designed to target the challenging symptoms of menopause.

Aphrodite Health aims to elevate women’s health and autonomy by developing psychedelics for women with chronic pain and hormone-related mood disorders like PMS & premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

What about postpartum depression (PPD)?

We hear a lot about psychedelics and their ability to help people struggling with depression.

We’ve yet to hear about the ability of these medicines to help women suffering from PPD. Given that PPD is a variant of depression, why are we yet to explore this potential use of psychedelics?

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer to that. But with anecdotal reports from mothers who have used psychedelics to treat their PDD, I imagine it won’t be long before we see a clinical trial.

For psychedelics to be accessible to all, female-focused topics in the field are necessary. The unmet needs of women represent an opportunity in itself, and “the time is ripe for developing female-specific therapies and protocols.”

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